Current legal frameworks protect people’s private life particularly in ‘private’ places, but much less in ‘public’ places. This place-based legal protection is challenged by two major socio-technological developments. 1) Traditionally, ‘my home is my castle’, but the home is evaporating now it no longer shelters the most intimate activities. People nowadays carry their private life around, with photos, music, books, diaries, and communications being stored on mobile devices and in remote-storage services (the cloud). Governments can access these data with significantly lower safeguards than entering homes. 2) The default in public places is shifting from anonymity to identifiability, making people increasingly vulnerable to private-life intrusions in public places. Traditionally, there are natural limitations to being followed in urban public places – we expect to be just another face in the crowd. But with pervasive surveillance, location-tracking, and emerging face- recognition applications, anyone can be recognised anywhere.
Together, these trends imply that existing legal protection, being based on a private/public place distinction, is outdated. Instead of place-dependent legal protection, alternative boundary-marking concepts are needed that can provide consistent and robust legal protection regardless of where private-life intrusions occur.
This project aims at re-inventing legal protection, in constitutional law, criminal law and criminal procedure, to address the new vulnerabilities of citizens in the age of ubiquitous data. Through comparative law, technology assessment (of mobile Internet, cloud computing, location-tracking, and face recognition), and theoretic research, place-independent boundary-marking concepts will be generated that reflect what comes closest to people’s personal lives in our technology-pervaded society. The results will be translated into concrete suggestions for adapting legal frameworks and for responsible technological innovation. Thus, the project will help law-makers to shape robust 21st- century legal frameworks, which ensure that people continue to be protected against private-life intrusions in an age of evaporating homes and ubiquitous trackability.